Thursday, 5 August 2010

Holding a torch for the victims of car crime.

Image ©
Don't let this happen to your classic.

I've been abusing the old blog of late, I'm afraid. I've been a bit wrapped up in capers, shows, and establishing the From The Captain's Chair website to really write anything for this place. But now I'm back I'm going to write about something really meaningful and deep. The destruction of your pride and joy.

One night last week, I awoke to what sounded like an expensive firework at about half one in the morning. As I was trying to go to sleep, I heard another. Incensed at the idea that some chav's jollies were keeping me from sleep, I hopped out of bed and stormed to the window. About a hundred yards away, to my left, was what seemed like a huge bonfire. Donning my specs, I saw that what it actually was was a bonfire based upon a Ford Transit camper. The other two tyres, for it was tyres exploding which had awakened me from my slumber, followed in the footsteps of their comrades with the accompaniment of a spitting and hissing dashboard. Within minutes, the fire service were on the scene, and despite the Transit's reluctance to calm down, the blaze had been fully extinguished within a quarter of an hour.

There are still scorch marks on the concrete between the council garages the Transit was set ablaze amongst. And captivating though a big fire undoubtedly is, there are still scorch marks burned indelibly upon my brain. For the first time, I had a clear insight into the sense of loss that is felt by enthusiasts whose prides and joys are forcibly removed and destroyed. Recently, my mate Chris Mansfield's very late MK1 Montego base - a rare model and the latest known MK1 to boot - was borrowed without his permission, and turned up cooked to a crisp about a week later. Another friend's Triumph Acclaim, though not burned out, was found upside down thirty miles from his house . There have also been near misses - cars that low-life have tried to steal but been unable to fathom the security on. And if you cast the net wider in the classic car world, worse has happened - witness the rare Humber Sceptre estate at the top of this article.

I've always been able to sympathise with the sense of loss felt when something like this happens - like any other burglary, it hurts. Likewise, I've also felt that it should be your right to break the culprit into as many pieces as your car/front window/garage was in when you found it, that a slap on the wrist isn't a good enough punishment for the lowlife that enjoy removing the privileges that people have worked damn hard for.

But what hadn't quite sunk in before was the extent of the sentimental loss. As I watched the flames curl further around that camper van, I couldn't help but consider the owners. Probably planning to take it to Cornwall or Whitby for a week in August, now deprived of the holiday they would have had. The possessions kept in there, lost forever for maybe ten minutes of jollies by a gang of four with a single shared brain cell. Seeing the flames curl round the wheelarches of this once proud house on wheels, as parts of the fibreglass camper conversion simply fell off, helped me appreciate the pits in the stomachs of people affected in this way - where once nestled love for their pride and joy, and where for no other reason than a childish desire to smash, crash, or burn, there is a gaping void left to be filled

I hope to God it doesn't happen to me. Having seen both the act of arson and it's results, I know I would be heartbroken to hear of the car of another friend of mine going up in flames. My own motor? I'd go to pieces.